The Hobbit has finally got the green light and will be made in 3-D with Sir Peter Jackson in the director's chair.
Shooting will begin in February.
The announcement was made today jointly by New Line Cinema - which bankrolled The Lord of the Rings, its parent company Warner Bros and MGM.
The announcement did not state whether the two-part prequel to The Lord of the Rings would be shot in New Zealand.
Matt Dravitzki, Jackson's assistant at Wingnut Films, said an annoucement on the place of filming would be "probably a week or two away".
Members of New Zealand actors' union Equity are refusing to participate in The Hobbit until they meet with its producers. The producers will not meet them and Jackson has said the film may be forced to be shot in another country.
A meeting on Thursday, facilitated by the Government, included representatives of the Screen Production and Development Association, Equity and the Council of Trade Unions.
It ended with all agreeing to work together to "update the conditions of engagement for performers in the New Zealand screen production industry".
But it was unclear how much of the meeting focused on The Hobbit.
Jackson as director ends months of speculation since Mexican film-maker Guillermo del Toro - hand picked by Jackson to direct - quit in May due to delays on starting date for The Hobbit, in part due to financial problems with backer MGM.
There had also been speculation that the two part film would be shot in 3-D.
Both parts would be made "using the latest camera and stereo technology to create a high quality, comfortable viewing experience", the studios said.
The project is expected to cost about US$500 million (NZ$660m) to make.
“Exploring Tolkien’s Middle-earth goes way beyond a normal film making experience” Jackson said, "It’s an all-immersive journey into a very special place of imagination, beauty and drama.
"We’re looking forward to re-entering this wondrous world with Gandalf and Bilbo - and our friends at New Line Cinema, Warner Brothers and MGM”.
“There is no human being on the planet as qualified as Peter Jackson to direct these films,” said Warner Bros president Alan Horn.
“Peter is incredibly talented and has the creative vision and experience to bring this beloved property to life in a way that no other film-maker could.
And the team of Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens have proven through their work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy that no one is more skilled at transforming Tolkien's written words into a vibrant, living language that makes the audience believe they are not merely visiting Middle-earth, but actually living in it.
"We couldn’t be more thrilled and look forward to seeing The Hobbit take shape under Peter’s stewardship and the team he is putting together.”
“Peter is a filmmaker of incomparable ability; having him return to Middle-earth to produce and direct is a dream come true. A true original, Jackson is a gifted story-teller, visionary director and pioneer in film technology,” said New Line Cinema president Toby Emmerich.
“Reuniting with Peter, Fran and Philippa on truly makes it feel like we are going 'there and back again.’”
Weta Digital in Wellington was heavily involved in 3-D visual effects for James Cameron's Avatar and is also working in 3-D for the first Tintin film, directed by Steven Spielberg.
This raised the possibility that, even if location shooting for The Hobbit is moved outside New Zealand, a substantial part of the visual effects, as well as pre and post production could still be done in New Zealand.
- The Dominion Post
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